We Ents have not troubled about the wars of Men and Wizards for a very long time. But now, something is about to happen that has not happened for an Age. Entmoot.Treebeard
A single cause
The state and rising hostility of the woods of Fangorn have reached a critical point. Since they are no longer manageable for the few remaining shepherds, a gathering must be held to determine what is to happen next.
They could use this festering anger of the woods for a good cause, namely that of entering the war that is brewing just outside their borders. The trees possess enough cruelty and malice towards any newcomers, imagine how productive they would be if they focused on a single target.
Merry: “What`s that?”
Treebeard: “It is a gathering.”
Merry: “A gathering of what?”
Treebeard: “Beech. Oak. Chestnut. Ash. Good. Good. Good. Many have come. Now we must decide if the Ents will go to war.”
Treebeard`s efforts had born fruit: many of his Ent friends had come. They are all commissioned with protecting the forest, so the question of them entering the war should be discussed amongst all of them.
This is something completely new to Merry and Pippin, and as the Ents gather slowly around the plinth, a sense of fear and uncertainty creeps upon their faces. They cannot be sure what kind of a gathering this is, but they hold on to Treebeard, for they trust him. They know he would never let them come to any harm.
It is refreshing to have democracy in otherwise monarchal realms. The people from every realm have to have the utmost trust and confidence in their leader to follow his orders and support his decisions.
The Ents, however, put it to a vote. It cannot fall upon one Ent`s shoulders to make a decision that is going to impact their entire realm. They all need to be in agreement before any decision can be made.
Merry: “It`s been going on for hours.”
Pippin: “They must have decided something by now.”
Treebeard: “Decided? No. We only just finished saying good morning.”
Merry: “But it`s nighttime already. You can`t take forever.”
Treebeard: “Don`t be hasty.”
Merry: “We are running out of time.”
The fact that they do have democracy, does not mean that it is a speedy process. Pippin has fallen asleep while Merry had paced nervously waiting for the gathering to produce a decision. As it had been hours, they rightly thought that a decision had been made.
However, the Hobbits` sense of time and the Ents’ sense of time passed is not the same. As they don`t move quickly, neither do their words. It takes an entire ritual for them to greet one another. The fact that night had fallen does not stop them to spend hours saying “good morning”.
Treebeard: “We have just agreed.”
Treebeard: “I have told your names to the Entmoot and we have agreed you are not Orcs.”
Pippin: “Well, that`s good news.”
As Treebeard utters his sentence, his eyes close and he falls temporarily asleep. If Merry hadn`t posed a question about their agreement, Treebeard would have probably continued to sleep. It is a testament to the efforts needed to communicate with one another and the time it takes them to communicate what they need.
However, what they agreed upon was clear to the Hobbits from the beginning. Apart from having Gandalf the White assure him of the Hobbits` origin, the Ents had to agree on that themselves. Only Pippin finds this to be positive. Merry becomes increasingly impatient.
Merry: “And what about Saruman? Have you come to a decision about him?”
Treebeard: “Now, don`t be hasty, Master Meriadoc.”
Merry: “Hasty? Our friends are out there. They need our help. They cannot fight this war on their own.”
Treebeard: “War yes. It affects us all. Tree, root, and twig. But you must understand, young Hobbit it takes a long time to say anything in Old Entish and we never say anything unless it is worth taking a long time to say. The Ents cannot hold back this storm. We must weather such things as we have always done.”
Merry: “How can that be your decision?”
Treebeard: “This is not our war.”
Merry: “But you`re part of this world! Aren`t you?! You must help, please! You must do something.”
Treebeard: “You are young and brave, Master Merry. But your part in this tale is over. Go back to your home.”
The Entmoot decided not to take part in this was, arguing that it isn`t their fight in the first place. Since they haven`t yet felt or seen the loss in their own community, it is naturally hard for them to step into something without cause. As people, and Ents, grow older they shy away from conflict and remain in their comfort zone as much as possible to let the evil pass and calm wash over their lands once more.
They have weathered many storms this way, so their reluctance to join the Hobbits` cause is completely understandable. They are simply remaining in the spot they always inhabited.
A part of Middle-Earth
However, Merry poses a justified question. The Ents have closed themselves off from the rest of the world worrying only about their own causes, failing to see the intertwined net that encompasses all the world under one banner. Since “no one cares for the woods anymore” they have adopted the same world view about all the other inhabitants of Middle-Earth.
Merry`s pleas go ignored as he begs for aid, not for himself, but for his friends and the Ents themselves. It is possible for the Ents to go extinct if Sauron prevails. They too may face the same attack of the Uruk-hai as the Men fear now. United they must stand or divided they will fall.
Merry`s pleas and arguments do not sway Treebeard to action. Their decision is final, and, as far as he is concerned so is the part of the two Hobbits in this story.
The Shire will be there, won’t it?
Pippin: “Maybe Treebeard`s right. We don`t belong here, Merry. It`s too big for us. What can we do in the end? We`ve got the Shire. Maybe we should go home.”
Merry: “The fires of Isengard will spread and the woods of Tuckborough and Buckland will burn. And all that was once green and good in this world will be gone. There won`t be a Shire, Pippin.”
Pippin sees himself as a simple Hobbit, a lonely soul who cannot possibly change the fortunes of the world, and certainly not win a war. And logically considered, he cannot fight an entire army of the Uruk-hai or overthrow the servant of Morgoth himself. He is out of his depth here.
There is no bearing for his feet and no comfort for his heart. Which is why he stands by what he knows best, and where he can lead his life as he had before he set off – the Shire. It is his home, his base and everything he holds near and dear to his heart.
In his mind, the Shire is of no relevance to any warmongers, it is exempt from any destruction. In his mind, it will always be filled with green pastures, little round doors, good food, and pleasant company.
But what if it weren`t? That is what Merry points out to him. If the evil spreads and war is lost, so will the Shire. There won`t be anything good or green in their world. Everything they hold dear will be lost. This hits home with Pippin. This realization leaves him stunned.
Change of plans
Treebeard: “I will leave you at the western borders of the forest. You can make your way north to your homeland from there.”
Pippin: “Wait! Stop! Stop! Turn around. Turn around. Take us south.”
Treebeard: “South? But that will lead you past Isengard.”
Pippin: “Yes. Exactly. If we go south, we can slip past Saruman unnoticed. The closer we are to danger, the farther we are from harm. That`s the last thing he`ll expect.”
Treebeard: “That doesn`t make sense to me. But then you are very small. Perhaps you`re right. South it is, then. Hold on, little Shirelings. I always like going south. Somehow it feels like going downhill.”
Merry: “Are you mad? We`ll be caught.” Pippin: “No, we won`t. Not this time.”
This time it is Pippin who springs into action. After having realized that his home may be lost in the oncoming war, the only option left is to try and fight as much as it is in their power. Granted, not much, but they are small enough they may pass unnoticed, which can be an advantage against a whole world full of tall people.
His plan of attack seems to be forming as he shouts out to Treebeard to turn around. He is certain of a positive outcome. Until they can begin the second, or rather, the third part of their story, they have a safe escort in Treebeard.
Merry is somewhat bewildered by Pippin`s turn of thought, but he trusts in his ability to provide them with safe passage through Isengard. They can always depend on each other to pull through any situation.
The long walk brings them south. What Treebeard encounters there, changes his view of the Ents` part in the war immediately. Read on in my next post.
Featured photo by Zhang Kaiyv on Unsplash.